What If You Fail?
This saying was popularized back in the 70s and is mainly attributed to Robert Schuller, a televanglist I didn’t much like. But I did like this axiom. And it came into prominence again in this decade as the result of a terrific TED talk by Regina Dugan.
Several years ago, I found the quote on a paperweight, and I bought it as a gift for my husband. My husband is a super capable guy, and I have never seen him fail at anything. But he’s cautious. He worries about trying things. He worries that he won’t be able to figure out new problems. He sometimes will not try stuff because he thinks he won’t be good at it. He doesn’t want to look foolish. He worries about failure.
I am familiar with these worries. Not only because I have lived with him for so many years. But because I share some of those same worries.
But somewhere in me, I have a intrinsic confidence that I can eventually handle whatever I need to. My husband has always handled what comes at him too. With as much or more success than I have had. But he doesn’t really believe it.
So I gave him the paperweight. I thought it might inspire him. Instill confidence.
A paperweight? Instilling confidence?
Great expectations from 3 inches of pewter. Yeah, that was a little naive.
But still – when you see or hear something everyday, sometimes it eventually imbeds itself into your brain.
And my husband has tried a few new things. He started horseback riding at age 71. At 73, he bought his own horse. That’s courage. (not pewter) He’s a cautious rider. But he rides.
As we get older, instead of being more cautious, some of us actually get a little braver. Maybe we say, “What the hell?” Maybe we want to fill our boring ebbing days with a bit more excitement. Maybe we have less to lose? Or maybe our dwindling fear comes from dwindling brain cells.
And as I get older, another question emerges that is as interesting to me as “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
What do you want to do so badly, you don’t care about the outcome? If you don’t care if you fail, if you look foolish, if you’re laughed at or pitied….or even if (gasp) it costs you money?
I like to post on Twitter in the guise of my dog. It lets me say stuff I might be embarrassed to say as me. Yeah, that’s dumb. I have a sneaky feeling most people know it’s me. It’s a foolish conceit, but I don’t mind looking foolish. I don’t mind being a silly old lady who pretends my dog has a philosophical bent.
And just this week, Theo wrote:
I think if you only like what you’re good at, you won’t be doing much of anything, because you won’t try anything. You have to be bad at something first before you get good. You don’t play a concerto the first time you sit down at the piano. Everyone knows that. But the trick is to like the piano even when you are awful.
But what if you never get good?
I have been practicing Yoga for 18 years now. I am in the beginner class. If I am fortunate enough to still be taking Yoga classes 18 years from now, I am fairly certain I will still be in the beginner class. I think they call it a “practice” for a reason. There is no Yoga recital – just practice. I am terrible. I like it anyway.
Perhaps the key to being brave is the inability to be embarrassed.
My mother’s very best advice to me was: “You can do everything! You won’t be good at everything. But you can do everything.”
I’ve learned that failure isn’t so bad. It’s an outcome that’s not only possible, but probable. It’s survivable. You just need to stop caring whether you look foolish. Enjoy the experience, even if the ending is terrible. And, once in while, after you do something badly for a very long time, you may find that you start doing it pretty well. Then very well.
It’s rare. But it’s awesome. It’s worth it.
What do you want to do passionately enough that you don’t care if you fail?